Script Analysis – How To Break Down A Script And Why Is It So Important? 

29th August 2022

Script Analysis – How To Break Down A Script And Why Is It So Important? 
Georgia Carter

Georgia Carter

Have you got some script analysis questions you need to be answered as an actor, or would like to delve deeper into the ins and outs of a theatre script analysis? Then you have come to the right place and we will take you through everything you need to book any role you are sent to audition for. 

Why Is Script Analysis So Important For An Actor? 

As an actor, getting into character helps us really understand why they act the way they do and create a believable performance. But when you don’t have very much time before sending in that self-tape or heading into a casting, you need the actor’s manual on how to decipher what exactly is the situation, subtext, the given circumstances, your objectives, beats of the scene etc. to book the gig. 

The more knowledgeable you are in doing this, the easier it will become and breaking down a script will come naturally to you. Also, being an actor, you will be intuitively curious and hopefully want to know more. A director, casting director etc. will easily be able to see those actors who have done their research into the scene and have created a narrative. 

Here is everything you need to know, let’s get stuck in!

Who Do You Work With Or Do You Work Alone? 

First things first, you need to be able to just explore and break down a script, play by yourself – as you have to do this before the casting and get the role, but once you get the job, there will be a difference between a film and play. For example, for both film & TV, you will more than likely have a table read. This will involve the whole production team and the cast. I would have likely read through the script myself before this, to be as prepared as possible and to see what happens to my character. Sometimes, directors do not like you to do too much before this, so it feels as fresh as possible. But I would recommend getting to know the plot as much as possible so you do not get caught out. 

Table Read

For a film table read, you will just read through the whole script and there will not be much time to deliberate on what each scene means, and similarly to a play read, but it is more expected to have done more of your own work beforehand in tv and film. It just depends on the process, but generally there is less rehearsal time given for tv & film. So any time spent picking apart the film script may be done with an assistant director or talking to the director between takes. Whereas, for theatre, there can be more of a lengthy process in rehearsal running up to the live show. 

The table read could take up any time between a morning or the first week of rehearsals in theatre, but in film, it will more than likely take only a day. If you need to do more private research beforehand, you will be in charge of this, unless as I have previously said, the director has been very clear about you coming in with no prior reading of the script. This can be done to ensure you explore the themes of the play and your character in relation to the other cast members. In this way, theatre could be seen to use more of an intense, collaborative approach to the work. 

How Do You Break Down The Script? 

Each line could be broken down into what is the motivation behind it or certainly what are the specific events that change the character you are playing in the scene. You will then be able to visually see the arc of the character in the scene, but then in general the whole play or script. Eventing can help everyone come to a shared version of what the characters go through. 

For film scripts, I would annotate the pages as much as you can, which may mean underlining important lines or words – in pencil as you may change your mind through exploration with others. You need to be open to other ideas from your cast and director. Be able to play with the script and remember to really listen to the director’s intuition, in the rehearsal time to explore your character and the overarching themes of the play. 

Main Theme Of The Story

In any movie script analysis or exploring a play in rehearsals, there will be an overarching theme of the plot. This can be explored through the table read and on your own which you can bring to rehearsals or to the director when filming your scene. This will help propel the story forward as you will keep returning to it and ensuring this is being demonstrated. For example, for the film ‘The King’s Speech’, the theme running through the whole piece is – finding your voice. 

Words & Punctuation  

So there will be a reason for those particular words being on the page in that order, so become more curious and query why the character may say those lines. Are there gaps, what is the punctuation and are there any words in bold, are they capitalized? These will be pointers to the emotional state of the character and how they are feeling towards the other person in the scene. Energy, pace and the physical and psychological state can be deciphered by just picking up on these things. Punctuation can tell you just as much as the words written in the script. Also remember to read the stage directions – do not forget about these as they can give you info in the scene! Really look out for the beats in the scene that change the way your character reacts and behaves to others in the scene. 

Who Is Your Character And How Do They Connect To The Social World? 

Using the Stella Adler script analysis, she asked her students to decide who their character represented in the world, and what effect did this have in making decisions? Once you work this out, and you see how they would interpret situations, this gives you a personal view on them and then with every scene you can act in such a way which refers back to this theme. 

Through this exploration, you may notice similar personality traits with other characters or see how much they deviate. 

Given Circumstances

If you want to know how to write a script analysis, a crucial part is the given circumstances of the scene. What do you know before the scene starts; in terms of the time of day, location, who are you? As Stanislavski would stipulate, the given circumstances are the environmental, historical, and situational conditions a character finds themselves in. 

He described these as the plot, the facts, the incidents, the period, the time and place of the action, the way of life. You can find out more in his book – Building A Character.

In terms of this 7 principles of acting, you should ask yourself of your character in every scene:

  • Who Am I?

This can always be explored further and where as an actor you can fill in the blanks. 

  • Where am I? 

The location of the scene.

  • What time is it? 

What time of day is the scene taking place, or time of year? 

  • What do I want? 

We also refer to this as an objective – which always relates to the other person in the scene with you and how this may change. 

  • Why do I want it? 

What does getting your objective mean to you, what is making you pursue your goal? 

  • How will I get what I want? 

You need to plot your actions, so you achieve your objective. 

  • What must I overcome to get what I want?

What is in your way of achieving your objective?

Final Thoughts 

So there you go! You can find script analysis templates online, as we do not have time to explore one here, and this can even include a crime script analysis if that is your thing. Give it a go and even though we have only covered the basics here, I hope that it has been helpful and now you know how to break down a script for yourself. 

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